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Frost/Nixon (2008, Ron Howard)



Before I watched Frost/Nixon I looked at a few clips of the actual interview. Seeing some of the real footage beforehand enabled me to properly appreciate the accuracy of the interview itself and the prowess of Frank Langella's dedicated portrayal of former President Richard Nixon. It's Langella's compelling performance and the charisma of Michael Sheen's David Frost that essentially carry the whole film.

After Nixon became the first President to resign, Frost did everything in his power to arrange an interview. It was considered a joke that a talk show host, often billed as a performer, would interview the controversial former President. He was given exclusive permission to inquire about Watergate, but no one thought he could break Nixon's stone wall - one of the reasons Nixon's camp went along with it. The interview was the highest rated news interview of all-time, and still is to this day. What turned out to be a huge success for Frost was a final, bitter chapter for Nixon's public image.

It's interesting what Jack Brennan, played by Kevin Bacon, had to say in a documentary-style interview (which appear throughout the film) when he talks about Nixon's calm and rational response to Frost's bold first question, "Why didn't you burn the tapes?". He referred to it as a challenger being taken aback by a champion's first punch in a boxing match, realizing exactly what kind of an opponent he's up against. The parallel to boxing is fitting: it's a battle, a war of words between two men, both with people in their corner preparing and instructing them, both sides with a game-plan and a will to "win" in this crucial series of interviews.

Ron Howard managed to keep a good pace, but was unable to fully capitalize on the intensity of the story and the actual interviews. If the two leads weren't so brilliantly cast it could have gone completely wrong. But thankfully both Sheen and Langella delivered, throughout the film and especially in the important interview scenes. Langella might even walk away with an Oscar for this one. There's a moment where his face alone conveys so much self-loathing and regret that itís hard not to feel sympathetic towards him. Itís an amazing performance that makes this film worth seeing at least once.

I think if they'd made it a longer and did more with the interviews it would've made for a better film. But it's a good, entertaining movie. Maybe it doesn't deserve its Best Picture nomination (I know a lot of MoFos would rather see Dark Knight in it's place - me included), but it's an interesting look at a young, daring Sir David Frost defying the odds to take on the domineering presence of one of America's most notorious Presidents. To end with a fitting quote from Homer Simpson: "It's like David and Goliath. Only this time, David won!"